Home Opinion Modi-Shah aping divide and rule of Congress. Same fate awaits BJP

Modi-Shah aping divide and rule of Congress. Same fate awaits BJP

Modi and Shah are too powerful and can easily quell BJP’s internal fights. If factionalism persists in the party, it isn't despite the duo, but because of them.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | File photo: T. Narayan | Bloomberg
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah | Photo: T. Narayan | Bloomberg

There isn’t much the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led Bharatiya Janata Party needs to learn from the Congress in its current avatar, given it has raced past its rival, both politically and electorally, and it also enjoys a clear lead in the perception battle. However, Modi and Shah seem to have picked up one big lesson from the Congress’ playbook — the divide and rule policy.

The factionalism and infighting in many BJP state units — from Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh to Assam —, subtle or otherwise, continues unabated, and the party’s top two seem happy to allow these rivalries to simmer. This has been an old Congress trick — the top leadership, read the Gandhis, likes to keep the leaders under them at loggerheads with each other, thus, rendering them dependent on the blessings of the family, making sure nobody poses a challenge to them while they cement their own position.

Modi and Shah have chosen the same strategy. They are way too powerful and much in control of the party to not be able to quell internal bickering and read the riot act to the warring factions. If internal frictions persist, it isn’t despite the powerful two, but it is because of them.

Modi-Shah duo, however, forgets, or choose to ignore the big lesson — this strategy yields short-term gains but hurts in the long run. Congress’ freefall can be attributed to this approach, which may have helped the Gandhi family rule luxuriously, but also ensured a worrying degree of decimation of the party.

Also read: BJP didn’t acquire Scindia just for power. It’s also to keep Shivraj Singh Chouhan in check

From Madhya Pradesh

The BJP is well-ensconced in power at the Centre, with Modi’s popularity continuing to soar and Shah’s election brain helping the party reap electoral dividends. And yet, their insecurity of power is such that they are more than pleased to preside over a host of internal battles.

Look at Madhya Pradesh. It was a state the BJP lost in 2018 by a whisker, but its top leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan continues to remain popular there, and the party even swept the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP’s central command, however, decided to jump at the opportunity of bringing in a sulking Jyotiraditya Scindia from the Congress amid much fanfare, well aware how it would translate into an uneasy relationship between him and Chouhan. Months later, Chouhan was shown his place, Scindia was given what he wanted and Modi-Shah ensured they added a generous dose of fuel to this fire of rivalry. The central leadership could have dealt with this delicate issue more sensitively, and ensured that neither side had a reason to complain — easier said than done, but not impossible for two men who take pride in their ability to control the narrative.

Essentially, in a state where the BJP had no big internal fights, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah decided to go ahead and introduce one.

Also read: BJP isn’t just a machine to win elections, it stands for seva: PM Modi to party workers

…to Assam

In Assam — a newly acquired territory for the BJP — the rivalry between Chief Minister Sarbanada Sonowal and Congress-import and senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is anything but a secret. Sarma, since he joined the party in 2015, has quickly risen up the BJP ranks and become its chief troubleshooter not just in Assam, but all the northeast. In Assam, he constantly overshadows Sonowal, deals regularly and directly with the party’s top leadership and ensures he is the face of all crisis resolution — from anti-CAA protests to Covid.

Modi-Shah have allowed this friction to continue right under their watch.

Also read: Madhya Pradesh’s new cabinet shows that a slow ‘Congressisation’ of the BJP is happening

Karnataka and beyond

Karnataka, another BJP-ruled state that Amit Shah went to all lengths to snatch back from the Congress despite losing the 2018 assembly election, has its own story of factionalism. There have been constant tussles between the old and new guard in the state unit — the latter comprising the defectors from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) who shifted their allegiance to the BJP to bag ministerial berths while the former belonging to the CM’s camp. The factionalism in Karnataka came out in the open when a group of leaders complained to the central leadership about how Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa was taking ‘unilateral’ decisions.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have allowed this bitterness to fester, and have even tried to weigh the powerful CM down through various tactics, the latest being the decision to overrule his candidates suggestion for the Rajya Sabha polls.

In Gujarat, the Vijay Rupani-Nitin Patel rivalry is now old news. And in Rajasthan, the internal factionalism ahead of the December 2018 assembly election was for all to see.

Also read: Unlike Indira Gandhi, this is why Modi era isn’t producing strong new foes

The dangerous strategy

For Modi-Shah, this is a dangerous path to tread. Congress’ divide and rule history has shown how allowing factionalism to prosper for the sake of limited, parochial gains can go on to damage the organisation at a later stage.

The infighting has ended up weakening the Congress in many states — Haryana (Hoodas versus Ashok Tanwar), Madhya Pradesh (Kamal Nath-Digvijaya Singh-Jyotiraditya Scindia axis), Assam (the Gogois versus Himanta battle which led the latter to quit party) and Rajasthan (the Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot fight that has potential to hurt it even in a state it rules).

For Modi and Shah, it may serve them the same temporary purpose — of ensuring there is no challenger. After all, Modi himself reached Delhi after serving as a state CM for many years, and eventually, displacing all other top leaders, including veteran L. K. Advani.

But such a strategy makes the organisation vulnerable in the long run, and for anybody wanting to leave behind a legacy of a strong organisation, this can hardly be the plan. By pulling off a Congress, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah risk becoming the Congress.

Views are personal.


  1. The writer is missing the wood for the trees in each and every case here.
    What threads Karnataka, Assam and MP together is that there are recent defections into the BJP from erstwhile rival parties, so there is bound to be friction at the start and competition.
    Karnataka : There has been a large scale defection to the tune of change of govt, so things will take time to settle and time will tell.
    Assam : Further, Sonowal has been popular and so is Sarma. Both belong to different tribes and that matters in a tribal society like Assam. how can any journalist worth her salt even miss that!
    MP : Scindhia has always been a member of Parliament and Shivraj has openly said he’ll stay in the state only, so giving Rajya Sabha seat to Scindhia is ensuring that two swords don’t remain in one sheath! Only a completely biased or noob in political affairs will miss that point. My bet is on former!

  2. Fiction print news. Findings ways to divide indians opinion and another modus of vote bank politics. They hate it when we say we are indians. They love it when said we are shia, we are sunni. Divide and rule

  3. To all purveyors of a vivid imagination…there is a saying….. ASSUMPTION IS THE MOTHER OF ALL SCREW UPS.
    It’s possibly because in your experience you have not managed or lead groups of people.
    When there are thousands involved, there are bound to be opinion based factions. Thats reality. Were there no factions in the 1940’s under Gandhi.?.
    There is also another saying…Do not teach your grandfather how to make babies….

    • Mr Anurag: Oddlly, not only do you read the Print, you even take the time to write a comment. Hypocrisy …

  4. Divide and Rule is a common strategy of BJP and Congress. But the cement that unites the BJP cadres are: promotion of communal divide and the ‘Modi Cult’ symbolised by Modi himself, in his own words ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’. The muscular jingoism is a subset of the Modi Cult typified by these epic lines of 4th Sept 2019, “Saatven paataal mein honge unko bhi main chodne wala nahin hoon. Main doston intezaar lamba nahi kar sakta, chun chun ke hisaab lena ye meri fitrat hai. Ye hamaara siddhant hai, hum ghar mein ghus ke marenge”. And then Amit Shah saying on 6 Aug 2019 in Parliament in reference to Aksai Chin, “Kya baat karte ho jaan de denge iske liye”.

    But this muscularity and the Modi Cult has been busted by weakness of Modi in dealing with Chinese intrusion symbolised by this unfortunate statement of PM Modi on June 19, 2020 in the face of clear intrusion by Chinese forces both in Galwan and in Pangong Tso, “ना कोई वहाँ हमारी सीमा में घुस आया है, ना ही कोई घुसा हुआ है”. If that was true there is no point in the mutual ‘pull back’ announced on 6th July, especially by India.

    The ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’ cult has also been undercut by the Centre’s mishandling of migrant crisis, the inability to control the spread of Covid which is expected to reach 1 Cr mark in November.

    The rising unemployment, clearly visible in the expected contraction of GDP for the first time since 1979, has busted the ‘acche din’ promise of brand Modi.

    So it’s the relative decline of Brand Modi that is going to hurt BJP the most. Divide and rule is only a crutch to promote Brand Modi.

  5. Looks author is frustrated by rise of BJP. So wants to create difference among BJP. But he forgets that it is BJP and not Khangress to go by presstitutes

  6. Looks author is frustrated by rise of BJP. So wants to create difference among BJP. But he forgets that it is BJP and not Khangress to go by presstitutes

  7. What is perceived by one as “ divide and rule” could also be perceived as a competition amongst potential contenders. If Sharma appears to be better than Sonowan in Assam., then so be it! If Chauhan in MP lost assembly elections because of his overconfidence and high headed ness then he needS to be kept under check! If there is need for Yedurappa to humble down for the betterment of party then so be it! Dirty politics at play and Modi-Shah perhaps are great poker players! So who is the real culprit is a matter of our perception depending upon our own understanding and biases! If the top leadership is looking for division of power to maintain their relative strength at the cost of party interests then the downfall has perhaps already begun!

  8. Next target Delhi (under world) to cover up the riots happened. Bihar- Again taking J&k issues in hand. In J& K no development made since six 6 yrs.

  9. Modi is the brand, without which bjp will fall like a house of cards which will be because of internal fighting, so they should get their act together to survive the winds of politics.

  10. Print is against BJP. Its feeling sad at the downfall of khangress. We know yr income is stopped after khangress downfall.
    Don’t compare with Modi& shah with pappu, antani.
    They know how to tackle ppl like u. They know how to manage their party affairs also.

    • Mr Grandhi Srrienivas: Presumably on behalf of Modi & Shah, you issue a threat to The Print:

      “.. Modi & Shah .. They know how to tackle ppl like u ..”

      So is an encounter in the classic Amit Shah mold about to happen ?

      And why should crioticism of the BJP not be allowed Sir ? Is it the new blasphemy law of India that Prophets Modi & Shah should not be criticised for their rank incompetence?

  11. Divide and rule is followed everywhere be it politics, corporates, joint families , so what’s the big deal and ranting about? At least they are doing much better job than others. Print – please stop petty quibbling possibly at the behest of congress

    • Mr Pravin Gupta: You pontificate:

      “.. At least they are doing much better job than others ..”

      Did you get your Rs 15 lacs that Messiah Modi promised you? Or were you comatose when demonetisation, a botched GST and the mismanagement of the economy was taking place? And continues to this day? Or were you happy that Muslims get lynched in Modistan? Or are you celebrating the fact that the Chinese got outwitted the 56 inch chested dhokla man?

  12. Don’t worry Modi will come say past is past, let’s import electrical machinery and pharma machinery.

    • Mr Ved: There is utterly no difference between the BJP & the Congress. More so when you realise that the greedy Congressmen have defected to the BJP to escape prosecution. And there is no reduction in corruption – either for the citizen when he interacts with local authorities such as policemen, corporators, schools etc. or ahen it comes to big ticket items like defence procurement.

      As Arun Shourie put it:

      Congress + Cow = BJP.

      I woill change that to:

      Congress + Cow + Lynchings = BJP

  13. BJP is going Congress way in short span of Six seven years . It seems to have lost it’s way of becoming party with a difference and is different altogether from it’s earlier avtar when it was in opposition criticising the then Govt on any issue but even now behaving like opposition and not taking the criticism in it’s stride.

  14. U R wasting everbody’s time on BJP where there is harmony unlike Congress where Dynasty rules in CWC only Gandhi’s matter.

    • Mr Sunil Chohan: There is NO harmony in ANY political party in India.

      MPs and MLAs are constantly looking for ways and means to make a quick buck and will jump parties in order to do so at the earliest opportunity. When people join politics and get elected by spending enormous amounts of money. they do not do that for altruistic reasons but expect to get a tangible return on investment. And corruption is rife in every party, including in the BJP. After all, Amit Shah’s son has made a quick buck hasn’t he ? An Patanjali gets allocated cheap land doesn’t it ? And Anil Ambani, with zero experience in aerospace manufacturing gets the Rafale maintenance contract doesn’t he?

      When the next electon comes around and should the Congress get a sizeable majority or be able to clobber together a majority, expect people to defect from the BJP to the Congress. C’est la vie.

  15. Poohi is a CONGRASS journalist. Her party’s divide and rule meant divide Hindus and ensure the FAMILY that is corrupt is kept in power through undereducated jhollawallas writing history, that started with mughals and ended with the family and rent a journalist types TO promote FAKE NEWS NARRATIVE . They promoted proselytizers and allowed in foreign funds for the same. Perhaps poohi is upset NON of that is happening.

  16. How do you say that Congress adopted ‘divide and rule’ policy. It is history that the British used ‘divide and rule’ policy to keep their colony weak a perpetrate their hegemony. Gandhiji, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, all endeavoured to maintain the unity in diversity that is India, and that is what made India what it is today, from a country that was exploited and subjugated by the British. Don’t become more saffron than the saffron brigade!

  17. Looks like you have the way to speak only negative about government, and if you get nothing for a day then always negative analysis.
    But I suppose we need this point of view too, for the corrections and better administration

  18. Their Next target and drama is on Kerala. They have taken capital on their control and will watch what they are going execute ,? Onscreen – helping Delhi. Behind screen – arrest of the protesters. They diasing on Bihar. This is a big test for PK on Bihar.

  19. Divide and Rule is a British strategy and through this the country was divided. It was copied by Congress Leaders and Congress Party was divided into many small groups .The communist party got divided into many groups due to personal rivalry. Also if we look at the history most of the powers have disintegrated because of internal squabbles. Shahjahan fell because Aurangzeb made him house arrest. So BJP will follow the same path unless of course RSS assumes power.

    • What are you talking about ? RSS is in power. I guess you are a sly supporter of Hindu Nazism.

      • Rasgolla: Can you stop prefixing and suffixing Hinduism with your hate-filled adjectives? You are no better – and perhaps much worse – than the very Hindutva Nazis that you criticise.

        Or as they: “Pot calling kettle black”.

  20. Nothing new. BJP has been importing all sort of Congress ideas – on economy, on political control, on dynasty, divide and rule, authoritarianism etc. Being endowed with so much political capital means that Modi-Shah have no equal in India today on gaining power. So everyone who is desirous of gaining power will gravitate towards them. In time unscrupulous people who are lusty for power will replace all old BJP hands. By then perhaps there will be no Modi but the seeds of the downfall for BJP-RSS in the future is being sowed today.

  21. Every party will go the congress way the day there are obvious monitory vested interests. We are seeing that happen to every party so to expect that BJP will be what it is today and will remain so in perpetuity shows a lack of understanding of how people behave when they come to gather.

  22. All you commentators, the nay-sayers as well as the toadues (it’s a carefully chosen word), unerringly miss something that bothers us “Indians” i.e. those of us not committed to worship at any altar other than the nation and Constitution: The “BJP” is actually the “MJP,” i.e. Modi Janata Party rolled by two parochialism, narcississtic politicians grown too big for their boots. God forbid, what would happen to the nation of they’re were, suddenly, to be no Modi? With BJP non-exustent and opposition parties in disarray, that would leave India in a ptiable condition.
    It would be worth analysing, what then?

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